JESUS AS HE LIVED IN GALILEE.
IT is to this period of our Lord's earlier ministry that those mission journeys belongthose circuits through the towns and villages of Galilee, teaching, and preaching, and performing works of mercywhich are so frequently alluded to in the first three Gospels, and which are specially mentioned at this point of the narrative by the Evangelist St. Luke. "He walked in Galilee." It was the brightest, hopefullest, most active episode in His life. Let us, in imagination, stand aside and see Him pass, and so, with all humility and reverence, set before us as vividly as we can what manner of man He was.
Let us then suppose ourselves to mingle with any one fragment of those many multitudes which at this period awaited Him at every point of His career, and let us gaze on Him as they did when He was a man on earth.
We are on that little plain that runs between the hills of Zebulon and Naphtali, somewhere between the villages of Kefr Kenna and the so-called Kana el-Jalîl. A sea of corn, fast yellowing to the harvest, is around us, and the bright, innumerable flowers that broider the wayside are richer and larger than those of home. The path on which we stand leads in one direction to Accho and the coast, in the other over the summit of Hattîn to the Sea of Galilee. The land is lovely with all the loveliness of a spring day in Palestine, but the hearts of the eager, excited crowd, in the midst of which we stand, are too much occupied by one absorbing thought to notice its beauty; for some of them are blind, and sick, and lame, and they know not whether to-day a finger of mercy, a word of healingnay, even the touch of the garment of this great Unknown Prophet as He passes bymay not alter and gladden the whole complexion of their future lives. And farther back, at a little distance from the crowd, standing among the wheat, with covered lips, and warning off all who approached them with the cry Tamê, Tamê"Unclean! unclean!"clad in mean and scanty garments, are some fearful and mutilated figures whom, with a shudder, we recognise as lepers.
The comments of the crowd show that many different motives have brought them together. Some are there from interest, some from curiosity, some from the vulgar contagion of enthusiasm which they cannot themselves explain. Marvellous tales of Himof His mercy, of His power, of His gracious words, of His mighty deedsare passing from lip to lip, mingled, doubtless, with suspicions and calumnies. One or two Scribes and Pharisees who are present, holding themselves a little apart from the crowd, whisper to each other their perplexities, their indignation, their alarm.
Suddenly over the rising ground, at no great distance, is seen the cloud of dust which marks an approaching company; and a young boy of Magdala or Bethsaida, heedless of the scornful reproaches of the Scribes, points in that direction, and runs excitedly forward with the shout of Malka Meshîchah! Malka Meshîchah"the King Messiah! the King Messiah!"which even on youthful lips must have quickened the heart-beats of a simple Galilæan throng.
And now the throng approaches. It is a motley multitude of young and old, composed mainly of peasants, but with others of higher rank interspersed in their loose arrayhere a frowning Pharisee, there a gaily-clad Herodian whispering to some Greek merchant or Roman soldier his scoffing comments on the enthusiasm of the crowd. But these are the few, and almost every eye of that large throng is constantly directed towards One who stands in the centre of the separate group which the crowd surrounds.
In the front of this group walk some of the newly-chosen Apostles: behind are others, among whom there is one whose restless glance and saturnine countenance accord but little with that look of openness and innocence which stamps his comrades as honest men. Some of those who are looking on whisper that he is a certain Judas of Kerioth, almost the only follower of Jesus who is not a Galilæan. A little further in the rear, behind the remainder of the Apostles, are four or five women, some on foot, some on mules, among whom, though they are partly veiled, there are some who recognise the once wealthy and dissolute but now repentant Mary of Magdala; and Salome, the wife of the fisherman Zabdîa; and one of still higher wealth and position, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, steward of Herod Antipas.
But He whom all eyes seek is in the very centre of the throng; and though at His right is Peter of Bethsaida, and at His left the more youthful figure of John, yet every glance is absorbed by Him alone.
He is not clothed in soft raiment of byssus or purple, like Herod's courtiers, or the luxurious friends of the Procurator Pilate: He does not wear the white ephod of the Levite, or the sweeping robes of the Scribe. There are not, on His arm and forehead, the tephillîn or phylacteries, which the Pharisees make so broad; and though there is at each corner of His dress the fringe and blue riband which the Law enjoins, it is not worn of the ostentatious size affected by those who wished to parade the scrupulousness of their obedience. He is in the ordinary dress of his time and country. He is not bareheadedas painters usually represent Himfor to move about bareheaded in the Syrian sunlight is impossible, but a white keffiyeh, such as is worn to this day, covers his hair, fastened by an aghal or fillet round the top of the head, and falling back over the neck and shoulders. A large blue outer robe or tallîth, pure and clean, but of the simplest materials, covers His entire person, and only shows occasional glimpses of the ketôneth, a seamless woollen tunic of the ordinary striped texture, so common in the East, which is confined by a girdle round the waist, and which clothes Him from the neck almost down to the sandalled feet. But the simple garments do not conceal the King; and though in His bearing there is nothing of the self-conscious haughtiness of the Rabbi, yet, in its natural nobleness and unsought grace, it is such as instantly suffices to check every rude tongue and overawe every wicked thought.
And His aspect? He is a man of middle size, and of about thirty years of age, on whose face the purity and charm of youth are mingled with the thoughtfulness and dignity of manhood. His hair, which legend has compared to the colour of wine, is parted in the middle of the forehead, and flows down over the neck. His features are paler and of a more Hellenic type than the weather-bronzed and olive-tinted faces of the hardy fishermen who are His Apostles; but though those features have evidently been marred by sorrowthough it is manifest that those eyes, whose pure and indescribable glance seems to read the very secrets of the heart, have often glowed through tearsyet no man, whose soul has not been eaten away by sin and selfishness, can look unmoved and unawed on the divine expression of that calm and patient face. Yes, this is He of whom Moses and the Prophets did speakJesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, and the Son of David and the Son of Man, and the Son of God. Our eyes have seen the King in His beauty. We have beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And having seen Him we can well understand how, while He spake, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice and said, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps that Thou hast sucked!" "Yea, rather blessed," He answered, in words full of deep sweet mystery, "are they that hear the word of God and keep it."
One or two facts and features of His life on earth may here be fitly introduced.
1. First, then, it was a life of poverty. Some of the old Messianic prophecies, which the Jews in general so little understood, had already indicated His voluntary submission to a humble lot. "Though He were rich, yet for our sakes He became poor." He was born in the cavern-stable, cradled in the manger. His mother offered for her purification the doves which were the offering of the poor. The flight into Egypt was doubtless accompanied with many a hardship, and when He returned it was to live as a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter, in the despised provincial village. It was as a poor wandering teacher, possessing nothing, that He travelled through the land. With the words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He began His Sermon on the Mount; and He made it the chief sign of the opening dispensation that to the poor the Gospel was being preached. It was a fit comment on this His poverty, that after but three short years of His public ministry He was sold by one of His own Apostles for the thirty shekels which were the price of the meanest slave.
2. And the simplicity of His life corresponded to its external poverty. Never in His life did He possess a roof which He could call His own. The humble abode at Nazareth was but shared with numerous brothers and sisters. Even the house in Capernaum which He so often visited was not His own possession; it was lent Him by one of His disciples. There never belonged to Him one foot's-breadth of the earth which He came to save. We never hear that any of the beggars, who in every Eastern country are so numerous and so importunate, asked Him for alms. Had they done so He might have answered with Peter, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have that give I thee." His food was of the plainest. He was ready, indeed, when invited, to join in the innocent social happiness of Simon's, or Levi's, or Martha's, or the bridegroom of Cana's feast; but His ordinary food was as simple as that of the humblest peasantbread of the coarsest quality, fish caught in the lake and broiled in embers on the shore, and sometimes a piece of honeycomb, probably of the wild honey which was then found abundantly in Palestine. Small indeed was the gossamer thread of semblance on which His enemies could support the weight of their outrageous calumny, "Behold a glutton and a wine-bibber." And yet Jesus, though poor, was not a pauper. He did not for one moment countenance (as Sakya Mouni did) the life of beggary, or say one word which could be perverted into a recommendation of that degrading squalor which some religious teachers have represented as the perfection of piety. He never received an alms from the tamchui or kuppa, but He and the little company of His followers lived on their lawful possessions or the produce of their own industry, and even had a bag or cash-box of their own, both for their own use and for their charities to others. From this they provided the simple necessaries of the Paschal feast, and distributed what they could to the poor; only Christ does not Himself seem to have given money to the poor, because He gave them richer and nobler gifts than could be even compared with gold or silver. Yet even the little money which they wanted was not always forthcoming, and when the collectors of the trivial sum demanded from the very poorest for the service of the Temple came to Peter for the didrachma which was alone required, neither he nor his Master had the sum at hand. The Son of Man had no earthly possession besides the clothes He wore.
3. And it was, as we have seen, a life of toilof toil from boyhood upwards, in the shop of the carpenter, to aid in maintaining Himself and His family by honest and noble labour; of toil afterwards to save the world. We have seen that "He went about doing good," and that this, which is the epitome of His public life, constitutes also its sublimest originality. The insight which we have gained already, and shall gain still further, into the manner in which His days were spent, shows us how overwhelming an amount of ever-active benevolence was crowded into the brief compass of the hours of light. At any moment He was at the service of any call, whether it came from an inquirer who longed to be taught, or from a sufferer who had faith to be healed. Teaching, preaching, travelling, doing works of mercy, bearing patiently with the fretful impatience of the stiffnecked and the ignorant, enduring without a murmur the incessant and selfish pressure of the multitudework like this so absorbed His time and energy that we are told, more than once, that so many were coming and going as to leave no leisure even to eat. For Himself He seemed to claim no rest except the quiet hours of night and silence, when He retired so often to pray to His heavenly Father, amid the mountain solitudes which He loved so well.
4. And it was a life of health. Among its many sorrows and trials, sickness alone was absent. We hear of His healing multitudes of the sickwe never hear that He was sick Himself. It is true that "the golden Passional of the Book of Isaiah" says of Him: "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed;" but the best explanation of that passage has been already supplied from St. Matthew, that He suffered with those whom He saw suffer. He was touched with a feeling of our infirmities; His divine sympathy made those sufferings His own. Certain it is that the story of His life and death show exceptional powers of physical endurance. No one who was not endowed with perfect health could have stood out against the incessant and wearing demands of such daily life as the Gospels describe. Above all, He seems to have possessed that blessing of ready sleep which is the best natural antidote to fatigue, and the best influence to calm the over-wearied mind, and "knit up the ravelled sleeve of care." Even on the wave-lashed deck of the little fishing-boat as it was tossed on the stormy sea, He could sleep, with no better bed or pillow than the hard leather-covered boss that served as the steersman's cushion. And often in those nights spent under the starry sky, in the wilderness, and on the mountain-top, He can have had no softer resting-place than the grassy turf, no other covering than the tallîth, or perhaps some striped abba, such as often forms the sole bed of the Arab at the present day. And we shall see in the last sad scene how the same strength of constitution and endurance, even after all that He had undergone, enabled Him to hold outafter a sleepless night and a most exhausting dayunder fifteen hours of trial and torture and the long-protracted agony of a bitter death.
5. And, once more, it must have been a life of sorrow; for He is rightly called the "Man of Sorrows." And yet we think that there is a possibility of error here. The terms "sorrow" and "joy" are very relative, and we may be sure that if there was crushing sorrowthe sorrow of sympathy with those who suffered, the sorrow of rejection by those whom He loved, the sorrow of being hated by those whom He came to save, the sorrows of One on whom were laid the iniquities of the world, the sorrows of the last long agony upon the cross, when it seemed as if even His Father had forsaken Himyet assuredly also there was an abounding joy. For the worst of all sorrows, the most maddening of all miserieswhich is the consciousness of alienation from God, the sense of shame and guilt and inward degradation, the frenzy of self-loathing by which, as by a scourge of fire, the abandoned soul is driven to an incurable despairthat was absent, not only in its extreme forms, but even in the faintest of its most transient assoilments; and, on the other hand, the joy of an unsullied conscience, the joy of a stainless life, the joy of a soul absolutely and infinitely removed from every shadow of baseness and every fleck of guilt, the joy of an existence wholly devoted to the service of God and the love of manthis was ever present to Him in its fullest influences. It is hardly what the world calls joy; it was not the merriment of the frivolous, like the transient flickering of April sunshine upon the shallow stream; it was not the laughter of fools, which is as the crackling of thorns under a potof this kind of joy, life has but little for a man who feels all that life truly means. But, as is said by the great Latin Father, "Crede mihi res severa est verum gaudium," and of that deep well-spring of life which lies in the heart of things noble, and pure, and permanent, and true, even the Man of Sorrows could drink large draughts. And though we are never told that He laughed, while we are told that once He wept, and that once He sighed, and that more than once He was troubled; yet He who threw no shadow of discountenance on social meetings and innocent festivity, could not have been without that inward happiness which sometimes shone even upon His countenance, and which we often trace in the tender and almost playful irony of His words. "In that hour," we are told of one occasion in His life, "Jesus rejoiced"or, as it should rather be, exulted"in spirit." Can we believe that this rejoicing took place once alone?